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Ted Stevens Convicted, Republicans Lose Another Senate Seat

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Alaska Senator Ted Stevens asked for a speedy trial on the theory that he needed an acquittal before Election Day.

Boy, was that a bad idea:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was convicted of seven corruption charges Monday in a trial that tainted the 40-year Senate career of Alaska’s political patriarch.

The verdict, coming just days before Election Day, adds further uncertainty to a closely watched Senate race. Democrats hope to seize the once reliably Republican seat as part of their bid for a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Stevens, 84, was convicted of all seven charges he faced of lying about free home renovations and other gifts he received from a wealthy oil contractor. Jurors began deliberating Wednesday at noon.

Stevens faces up to five years in prison on each count when he is sentenced Jan. 26, but under federal sentencing guidelines, he is likely to receive much less prison time, if any.

The monthlong trial revealed that employees for oil services company VECO Corp. transformed the senator’s modest mountain cabin into a modern, two-story home with wraparound porches, a sauna and a wine cellar. Stevens never paid for VECO’s work.

The Senate’s longest-serving Republican, Stevens said he had no idea he was getting freebies. He said he paid $160,000 for the project and said he believed that covered everything.

Stevens was already trailing his Democratic opponent, so it seems rather assured that this conviction pretty much guarantees his defeat, which just adds to the woes that the Republicans are likely to face on Election Day.

But that may just be the beginning.

This conviction couldn’t possibly come at a worse time for the Republicans and John McCain. Ted Stevens wasn’t just another Senator, he was the longest-serving Republican in the Senate. When the GOP controlled the Senate prior to 2006, he was third in line to succeed to the Presidency. This is the kind of event that could turn around and hurt not just Ted Stevens, but a whole host of people.

That said, it seems fairly clear that Stevens has only one option at this point. He must resign. Today. Election or no election, he doesn’t belong in the Senate anymore.